CORRECTED-Ivory Coast agrees second port deal with Bollore-led group

Fri Jul 5, 2013 12:06pm EDT

(Corrects Fadika's title to director of existing container terminal, not port)

* Deal seen finalised in weeks despite rival's complaint

* Second terminal due to boost capacity at regional hub

* Traffic up 15 pct in 2012 - port MD

By Ange Aboa

ABIDJAN, July 4 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast has agreed a preliminary deal for a new container terminal at Abidjan port with a consortium led by France's Bollore, the director of the port's existing container terminal said, despite a rival lodging a legal complaint.

The deal, which also includes France's Bouygues and a subsidiary of Danish shipping giant Maersk, is due to be finalised by the government within weeks, Issouf Fadika told Reuters on Wednesday.

The new container terminal is expected to boost capacity at the port of Abidjan, a gateway for landlocked nations to the north and a transit point for most beans from the world's top cocoa grower.

Traffic at the port, already one of Africa's busiest, rose 15 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year.

"The Ivorian commission that is negotiating ... initialled the contract for the second terminal and, in a few weeks, the government will sign the final contract," said Fadika, the director of Abidjan Terminal, which is controlled by Bollore.

"We can say that the two parties have agreed on all parts of the contract and there should not be any problem. Initialling the deal means nothing can prevent it from being signed," he added.

The initialling comes as the competing consortium including Movis CI and French family-owned shipping company CMA CGM, which lost out, lodged a complaint at the competition authority of the eight-nation West African regional currency bloc UEMOA.

The contract has sparked controversy in Ivory Coast, with the trade minister attacking his own government for failing to promote competition by awarding it to Bollore.

Jean-Louis Billon, in a letter to the transport minister and procurement agency ANRMP, said Bollore should not have been allowed to bid as the company already runs the existing container terminal.

However, President Alassane Ouattara has rejected the criticism, saying Bollore submitted the best offer.

The bulk of Ivorian cocoa exports pass through Abidjan, as do around 60 percent of goods to and from landlocked Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. (Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Bate Felix and Mark Potter)